The Michigan coaching staff had an opportunity to see Chris Bryant at the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy at Wayne State in June and came away impressed. (Allen Trieu/Scout.com)
After signing one offensive lineman in last year's recruiting class, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has placed a strong emphasis on fortifying the trenches in 2011. The Wolverines are well on their way to doing that with three verbal commitments from lineman.
That said, there appears to be room for at least one more. A top candidate for that post is Chris Bryant, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive guard from Chicago.
"Bryant is a big-bodied lineman who can move well for a kid his size," Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu said. "He's also smart and takes to coaching quickly. He has great power and strength, and when he gets his hands on someone he usually wins. He has an exceptional punch and can knock defenders off balance easily.
"He still is somewhat raw with his hand placement and technique and is a tad top-heavy, but he has a ton of raw ability. He has the type of aggressive, hard-working attitude you want in a lineman."
The Michigan coaching staff had an opportunity to see that at the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy at Wayne State in June. Wolverines offensive line coach Greg Frey led the line drills that day, and Bryant's overpowering performance made a significant impression.
Rodriguez made it a point to get over and say a few words to Bryant. A visit to Ann Arbor followed immediately after the camp, but the Maize & Blue didn't offer at that time. Still, Bryant made it very clear Michigan held a prominent place in his recruitment.
(If Michigan offered), they'd be up there on the list of favorites," Bryant told Scout.com. "It would be tough to say no to them."
A few weeks later that sentiment was put to the test when Michigan offered him a scholarship, joining Stanford, Illinois, Kansas, Arizona, Minnesota, and a half-dozen others on Bryant's offer sheet. He took his second visit to Ann Arbor a few weeks later, this time accompanied by his parents.
"I liked it a lot," Bryant said of his time at Michigan. "(My parents) liked it too -- just sitting down and talking to the coaches, seeing how they really are, communicating with them, and just seeing how everything is going. I could see myself there and I was very impressed and pleased with what they had to offer."
Rumors of a possible Michigan commitment surfaced earlier this week, but Bryant quickly dismissed such talk as premature.
"I really wanted to wait until signing day (to make a decision), take as many trips, and do my homework as much as possible on all the schools," Bryant said. "Signing day was my goal, but with everyone committing so early and everything it is hard to say (that a choice will be held off that long). Once I set my top schools and they start filling up, I'm going to have to go ahead and decide out of my top schools which one I'm going to."
That scenario may be close to materializing at Michigan if it hasn't already. With ten verbal commitments already accounted for, the Wolverines have limited scholarships remaining. A handful of offensive lineman could be vying for one or two remaining slots. It's a topic Bryant has already spoken to the Michigan coaches about.
"(The Michigan coaches) were telling me that I'm definitely one of the top guys on their recruiting list," he said. "If it ever came down to the point where they were just running out of spots or had one spot left, they said that they would definitely get in contact with me and let me know. Right now I'm just trying to take it slow. I'm just enjoying the process right now."
The other guys
That approach bodes well for Bryant's other suitors. Though he claims no definitive favorites, visits to Illinois and Stanford enhanced their standing with the three-star lineman.
"I love the atmosphere over there (at Illinois)," said Bryant to Scout.com. "It's a very welcoming place. I felt very at home there. All the coaches are real cool and you really feel the respect and love from everyone.
"(Stanford) was great," he added. "It's a good atmosphere there and the coaches are very good teachers. I felt like I learned a lot. I like the NFL experience they all have and I really liked the offensive line coach (Tim Drevno). Coach (Jim) Harbaugh is full of energy. He participates and is very hands-on."
Arizona has one of Bryant's former teammates as a feather in its cap. In addition, the offer from the Wildcats was one of his earliest. When all is said and done, though, the last program standing will be the one that boasts the best combination of on-field and off-field attributes.
"Definitely academics -- that's one thing that stands out," replied Bryant when asked to describe his decision criteria. "My father always preached to me that you cannot play football forever, you need something to fall back on, so academics are going to stand real strong for me. Just kind of a powerhouse football, place known for football, a great college atmosphere for football, just very supportive and a good football team, great coaches. I want to go to a place that is known for football and academics at the same time."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.